Building confidence

08 June 2017

Signpost in Colchester received funding from the Trust in August 2015 for a two-year project called Experience + Education = Employment that builds on an existing idea.

Through the project, Signpost supports people living in Greenstead, Colchester, to find employment and build their confidence by providing support and opportunities for them to gain experience, develop their skills, and make new friends in a comfortable and supportive environment.

Volunteers have the chance to spend time in different parts of the organisation, and gain experience in all areas of running a small charity. The volunteers are also able to choose an accredited training course to help them learn new skills. As their confidence increases, members can take on increasing roles in shaping the direction of the project.

We recently visited the project, and met with some of the volunteers. They talked about their own experiences looking for work, and the negative impact unemployment can have on wellbeing. For example, people can feel a lack of control over their lives; they may lose contact with their support networks and experience a drop both in confidence and self-esteem.

One of the members told us:

"You go many years working and you’re suddenly slapped with redundancy and everything is gone. Your whole life is upside down, and you’ve got all of that to face alongside looking for new work. That all has an effect on your life as well, and how you view people - and everything around you - because you’ve got to sort of pick yourself up again. If you’ve got people who are decent with you and talk to you, you’re all together and chat to each other.”

One volunteer told us about her experience after being made redundant, and how the loss of stability led to her feeling a lack of control over her life and her future. Many of the members have been through similar experiences so it’s easier to be able to relate to each other.

Another volunteer told us how losing confidence and becoming isolated meant making new friends seem like an impossible task. Understanding this, their project is very flexible, and allows people the space and time to discover what they would like to do, and where their strengths lie. It enables volunteers to build up their social networks in a relaxed and natural way, at their own pace.

“If someone’s isolated, then the whole idea of having some kind of social network, having references for a CV, that kind of stuff, it’s just another one of those things that’s impossible at the time… [After taking part in the project] It just starts to happen, and then you realise how natural a part of life that is.”

The group shared their experiences of how unemployment and social isolation can lead to people feeling undervalued and unable to recognise their own strengths and abilities, particularly when experiencing anxiety or other mental health issues.

The Experience + Education = Employment project provides opportunities for the participants to try new things and take on additional responsibilities, helping to increase their own sense of value, and to develop more control over their lives and the options available to them. It’s also a key way they make sure that the members are in control of the project and able to shape their involvement in it.

One of the group told us:

"How do they help? Opportunity. Every day. Without pressure, without expectation. A little bit of guidance, a little bit of, ‘do you think you could help with this?’ You can flourish in whichever direction you are going to flourish in, and you find out what you’re good at, you find out what you want.”

 

To read about other projects funded by the Trust, click here.

 

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